The Richmond Register

Sports

December 19, 2013

OVC BASKETBALL: EKU builds 20-point lead, tops NC A&T, 84-73

RICHMOND — The Colonels built a big early lead then had to survive a furious second-half comeback attempt before downing North Carolina A&T, 84-73, Wednesday in Richmond.

It was the 21st consecutive non-conference win for the Colonels, tying a program record set in 1980.

The Aggies cut the Colonels’ 20-point first-half lead down to only eight three times with less than four minutes remaining.

But unlike last season when the Colonels squandered a 17-point second half lead and lost to A&T on the road, this time they made the big plays when they needed them.

Marcus Lewis, who finished with a team and career-high 20 points, hit a big three pointer with the shot clock running down to give EKU an 83-72 lead with 1:08 to go.

The Colonels’ defense forced a missed shot on the other end, then Lewis hit a free throw with 9.8 seconds to go to seal it.

“When Orlando (Williams) pitched it out to me I was trying to reset the offense because we were a little out of control there, but we didn’t have time so I tried to throw up a good shot and it went in,” Lewis said of the shot.

The Colonels opened the game playing stifling defense, holding the Aggies scoreless for the game’s first four minutes, and allowing them only two baskets in the first nine minutes as they built a 23-4 lead.

EKU coach Jeff Neubauer, who said he doesn’t like to compare his team to last year’s team, said the defense the first seven minutes was what he saw last season.

“The way we started off the game tonight was how we started games last year. We just pounced on people, played with great energy, didn’t allow them to make passes, got steals and created offensive opportunities,” Neubauer said. “This is what we want. This is who we should be. This is who we’ve been in the past and hopefully we can take this into the new year.”

Point guard Glenn Cosey said the team’s focus on defense in practice showed on the court.

“We’ve been doing defense all week in practice. Oh, my. I’t’s been crazy. It paid off tonight, thank God,” he said.

The Colonels’ swarming defense created numerous Aggies turnovers which jump-started their potent transition game, leading to several highlight-reel dunks by the high-flying Lewis.

“We’re very good in transition. We’ve got very good decision makers in transition. It’s the most effective part of our offense,” Neubauer said. “So when we can guard like that it allows us to get out and run and we are very comfortable playing fast.”

Lewis’ third dunk of the half, over a defender while getting fouled, seemed to get the Colonels offense fired up.

EKU got three pointers from Cosey, Isaac McGlone and Timmy Knipp as they extended the lead to 32-12.

N.C. A&T tried to rally, cutting the lead down to 38-22 with just over two minutes remaining, but two free throws by Cosey and a dunk by Williams and one at the buzzer by Stutz at the buzzer gave the Colonels a 44-28 lead at the half.

Cosey finished with 19 points and five assists, while Walden was also in double figures with 10 points before fouling out with just over five minutes to go.

Stutz and Williams finished with nine points each, Knipp had eight points, and Jeff Johnson, McGlone and Tarius Johnson had three points each.

The Colonels get a week off before returning to action on Dec. 29 when they travel to Fort Wayne Ind. to take on IPFW at 2 p.m.

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